Friday, December 24, 2010

The Feast of Seven Fishes

One tradition that my family always takes part in is the Feast of Seven Fishes. If anyone forgot it was Christmas Eve, a quick walk down the hallway toward the kitchen would be a less than gentle reminder with the aroma of seafood and the sound of frying fish.

This Italian tradition dates back to southern Italy, where my great-grandparents came from, and is a Christmas Eve staple in our household. Unfortunately, my taste buds are less than loving of fish. Yep, major picky eater right here! But despite my aversion to fish, most of my family really looks forward to this fishy feast, most of all Grandma and Grandpa.
There are some fish that always appear at our Christmas Eve Meal. I don't know if there is a reason behind certain fish being chosen or if it's simply a taste preference. For my grandparents, the favorites are Baccala(cod) and Gabadone (eel), which are always fried. This year the feast consisted of fried whiting, breaded tilapia, steamed mussels with marinara sauce, shrimp cocktails, king crab legs, clams, and anchovies in a garlic olive oil sauce over pasta. I didn't get a picture of the clams or king crab legs! Clams are served raw with lemons and king crab legs are served with lemon butter sauce. Merry Italian Christmas Eve !

Steamed Mussels over Marinara Sauce

Shrimp Cocktail

Fried Baccala (also known as Cod)

1 1/2 lb baccala
1 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tbsp garlic powder
oil (for frying)

1. Baccala is a cod that is preserved in salt, so before it can be cooked, it must soak (overnight at least) in water. Many Italian fish markets will sell if pre-soaked if given enough notice. I soaked the baccala for about 16 hours and changed the water every few hours. Once it's finished soaking, cut into about 3 or 4 inch pieces.

2. Mix the flour, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a shallow dish. Dredge the baccala in the flour mixture. Lightly tap of excess flour and set aside.

3. Heat oil in a fry pan or skillet to medium high. Cook the fish for about 3 minutes on each side. Let drain on paper towels; then serve hot.

Merluza (also known as Whiting)

Here is what Grandpa calls Merluza, which a fillet of whiting. The process for cooking is the same as baccala except that it does not need to pre-soak. We used about 2 pounds of whiting. Follow the same recipe as above.

Gabadone (Also known as Eel)

Gabadone is a classic Christmas Eve fish. It is purchased by the fish. We usually only buy one eel, because it's a decent sized fish. The gabadone is usually about 2 feet long, so one will suffice for us. The gabadone is also fried in flour and seasoning, but the cut is different.

1 whole gabadone (eel)
1 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tbsp garlic powder

1. Wash the eel and then pat dry. Lay it out flat on a very strong cutting surface. Using a meat clever, start by cutting off the head. It's very difficult to cut through the spine, so use your weight and cut swiftly. (My Mom loves how the eel looks like it has a mohawk.)

2. Continue cutting down the length of the eel in about 2 inch round slices.

3. Mix the four, salt, pepper and garlic powder in a shallow dish. Dredge the fish through the flour mixture.

4. Heat oil on medium high and fry both sides about 5-6 minutes on each side. Let drain on paper towel and serve hot.

Garlic and Anchovy Sauce over Fettuccine

This sauce is so simple, it's basically aglio e olio sauce that cooks with anchovies and more pepperoncino flakes.

Add 2 cans of drained, chopped anchovies and one more tsp of pepperoncino flakes, serve over fettuccine and there you have it!

Breaded Tilapia Fillets

2 lbs tilapia fillets
1 1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
3 eggs, beaten
oil (for frying)

1. Mix bread crumbs, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish.

2. Dip fish in beaten eggs and then dredge through the bread crumb mixture.

3. Fry on both sides about 3 minutes each side. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.

Also featured on
Real Food Wednesdays and Works for Me Wednesdays.

1 comment:

  1. I love seeing other people's 7 Fishes! Hooray, Italians! We only did 5 in my house this year, since only 3 out of the 4 of us eat fish, but we enjoyed them!